Low levels of a neurotoxin have been found in two samples of algae near Red Bud Isle. However, the toxin was not found in any of the water samples or in other algae samples. Additionally, the sampling has shown that much of the algae in other parts of Lady Bird Lake are presently harmless varieties.
Samples of water and algae were taken from eight locations on Lady Bird Lake. Additional samples were taken at the Walsh Boat Ramp on Lake Austin and downstream of Longhorn Dam.
Based on these test results, the toxin appears to be localized at this time to the algae near Red Bud Isle, and Red Bud Isle remains closed. Signs were placed on Red Bud Isle Sunday evening to warn pet owners.
However, be aware the algae can move and because there may be potentially harmful algae in other areas of the lake, people should continue to minimize their exposure to the water and avoid all contact with algae. Pet owners should continue to keep their dogs out of Lady Bird Lake.
Additional algae samples are being taken today at the mouth of Barton Creek to identify the type of algae at that location.
Algae is naturally occurring, and most of the time it is harmless. It is not uncommon for there to be algae, including blue-green algae, in Austin’s lakes. Algae tends to be more abundant near shorelines and in areas with low water flow. We have not previously been aware of any effects from neurotoxins in the algae in Lady Bird Lake. Algae that can produce toxins can only be identified through laboratory testing.
Watershed Protection staff test Lady Bird Lake nine times a year for possible pollutants, water chemistry, and other indicators of water quality. Staff also tests the bottom sediments of the lake once a year for metals and other pollutants. Based on the current blue-green algae event, staff is working on a testing protocol to continue monitoring algal toxicity on Lady Bird Lake.
Drinking water remains unaffected by this situation. Austin Water regularly looks at algae levels on Lake Austin and Lake Travis and has not seen levels of concern for drinking water. Austin Water does not currently use Lady Bird Lake as a source for drinking water.
Dogs who ingest water contaminated with this toxin could have a number of symptoms. On the severe end, it could result in respiratory paralysis and death. Look for these signs in your pet within minutes to hours of exposure:
- Excessive drooling, vomiting, diarrhea
- Foaming at the mouth
- Jaundice, hepatomegaly
- Blood in urine or dark urine
- Loss of appetite
- Photosensitization in recovering animals
- Abdominal tenderness
- Progression of muscle twitches
- Respiratory paralysis
The amount of toxins the dog ingests and licking of the fur are factors.
In people, possible health effects include:
- Dermatologic signs or symptoms such as rash, irritation, swelling, or sores
- Gastrointestinal signs or symptoms
- Respiratory signs or symptoms
- Neurologic signs or symptoms
- Ear symptoms
- Eye irritation
Austin Public Health routinely tracks emergency department visits. We have not seen any increases in unusual conditions that may be related to exposure to the water. APH will continue to monitor
We recommend people and dogs rinse off if they are in contact with the water and if symptoms occur, seek medical attention.
If members of the public have questions or concerns, please have them call 3-1-1 or 512-974-2000. For more information and updates, visit austintexas.gov/Algae.